Designed to die: towards an architecture of impermanence

Shafique, Tanzil and Mejias Villatoro, Paco (2017) Designed to die: towards an architecture of impermanence. STUDIO: Ephemeral, 12. pp. 96-105. ISSN 2240-4767

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In a recent lecture, Peter Eisenmann lamented the loss of authority of the architect——the loss of a standard by which to make judgements in architecture. Reflecting on that, we wondered if this loss propagates from the burning question put forward by Derrida in his ‘Letter to Peter Eisenmann’, where he asked what might bring architecture back to “the experience of its own ruin (death)?”. Discarding such questions, architectural discourse centers around creativity and durability. An inherent natalism invigorates architecture that, when faced with the question of its own demise, recoils from such perversions. The ‘firmitas’ from Vitruvius still resonates as a futile pursuit of permanence. Architectural practice does not, on the large, address the questions of decay, ruination and demise other than to utilize these concepts against which technological innovation is developed and deployed. Montaigne quotes Cicero in his Essays that to philosophize is to learn how to die. We argue that the failure of current architectural theory, as Eisenmann thankfully alludes to, is not due to the lack of instrumentality in bringing architecture to life, but rather, stems from its failure to account for death. Such an investigation is not to show the impotence of architecture but rather to reclaim the dissolution of architecture as a new territory of design. Tracing the history of traditional and modern architecture, we find strong reasons to believe that ephemerality is the normative condition and permanence an illusion. Beyond providing typological and representational frameworks that tackle the issue of death, we wish to stress why any design philosophy must provide an eschatology of architecture, given the civilization-at-risk in the Anthropocene. In such a time, to be ephemeral is to embrace death with authority.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: architecture, impermanence
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Business & Applied Social Science > Department of Arts & Humanities
Depositing User: Paco Mejias villatoro
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2021 14:52
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2021 14:52

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